Doctor, I had this dream. I go back there, to college, some sort of summer reunion sort of a thing. And I see her, and I meet her, and we talk, and we talk amicably. Instantly. Getting along. Understanding each other. There's not the usual tit for tat domino effect thing, instead, there is peace. We have a nice time, we're friends again, and all the silliness is beside, gone us. And the best thing, as we take a walk, through the wild preserve saved by the college that stretches away to the south into the rolling hills, into the grassland, and birds come, like ruffed grouse or something, flying in and picking through the grass, they too, one young, one older, mature, and the birds are almost friendly, willing to communicate in their own way with their human neighbors.... And she tells me that she spent summers on a farm in, I dunno, western New York or Pennsylvania, camp and she knows birds quite well, a naturalist... She knows what kind of bird these are. We finally have this peace, this, I dunno, love, this understanding, totally different, no more war, just totally awesome... And this great ecological space opens up away from the campus back on the hill where people can walk and have these deep conversations just like the ones I always wanted to have with her. And you can look back at the college and it truly looks like this brick Greek temple to learning, philosophy, reading, fairness...
Finally, peace, love, the meaning of love... There's a little bump, my slight awkwardness picking up someone's newborn boy, you know, how you're supposed to support the baby's head, which I know but do a little clumsily, I guess I got a little cocky, but we're in touch, we're talking, the way we always should have... I could almost tear up at the beauty of it...
And then of course you wake up and it's time to go to work.
"Maybe the dream shows that you're making your own inner peace with it."
There were all these robins up in the tree branches when I walked up my street this morning, a whole flock of them. And there was always a bird in motion while some stayed still, incredibly even... Maybe there's something ecological or environmental about the dream, like we end up sharing the same values deep down, inexpressible, natural...
"Well, you can look up the image of birds in the meaning of dreams. But you say there's not the usual contention in the dream. This is a new thing?"
I have these dreams periodically, in which she shows up. I'd say gradually they've gotten more developed as far as the achievement of peace and happiness between us. Like a slow progression. Often times they end when the good thing is just starting. In this one I seemed to walk further into it, having a solid way to reach her if she goes away.... And like we are talking it all over and forgiving each other and just getting on with enjoying the present....
In previous installments, I get there, but she's nowhere to be seen, or we see each other but don't talk, maybe get close to talking, but I let the chance slip away. Something like that. The whole landscape there, but not happening....
"I know what I said to you earlier, I forget exactly, about it had an impact on you."
Yes, when you said she was treating me like I was some sort of low-life or something. That did, yes. That was the first time I could see that side of it really.
I walked home peacefully afterward, back up through Dupont Circle, past the bums. Maybe I felt less pained. I recalled the different themes of the session.
We'd talked about me and my book. "Sounds like you tend to put up a road block when you have a chance to share your work. Either you're self-deprecating, or you shut down."
Yeah, but it's like Emily Dickinson, the admiring bog... That's not who you write for if it's going to be any good. And it has to be personal, too, not just written for the style or the tastes or the wants of the times you live in. Later on it becomes literature.
"But the woman mentioned your book (from reading the article about you)..."
Well, next time. Build a relationship. I don't want to be that guy 'here's my book' to every girl who comes in...
"Well, there's a happy medium in between, and you could say, a standard answer, 'well, it's out there on Amazon,' rather than giving away free copies, 'and if you get a chance to read it, I'd be curious about what you think, over a glass of wine.' Not everyone is going to like it. Not everyone likes me."
Really, I find that hard to believe.
"No, some clients just don't like me and they don't come back."
Oh. Yes, you're a real back stabber. Machiavelli. Such a bitch.
One thing that got me through the week was this PBS thing on Shakespeare, actors talking about the plays, and I'd never read The Taming of the Shrew. But it's been something we've been watching in different forms, like Spencer and Hepburn, all along. Yeah, it was his first, a comedy, but you know, serious...
I thought for a moment... I... Maybe there's this voice somewhere, I'll locate it in the general realm of big brother, that says, 'don't be an asshole.' Don't be an asshole for sharing, or for even writing, or for the whole stupid system you've got going, having never grown up...
"Who is being the asshole here?"
Yes, we all accuse others of our own worst faults.
I feel a bit like Lincoln, as I imagine him, as I walk home. (Sad, you know, but in a strange way, complex...) Having a sort of steady hurt upstairs that never really goes away. Knowing that 'woe unto the world because of offenses' on a deep level, how people on earth squabble, each, both sides, thinking they 'are doing God's will.' And here's Lincoln, the poet philosopher, looking in curiously over this general pervasive situation, like vain McClellan who doesn't move and do the thing when he needs to, or the self-centered guys who end up in his cabinet, talents playing off each other in Lincoln's wise set-up, because that's just how people are, maybe particularly the talented. How could you not avoid a war with so much economic stuff tied into the issue, as moral a one as you'd like to see it, indeed it is a moral issue, but... The economic stuff just being the practical of the world. People should love each other, yes, on a moral level, that's just the right thing, but there are, we can't forget them, practical issues, careers, economic security, forward motion, status, social mobility... Things of human pride, not for bad reasons. Love, like the birds of the environment, like the honey bee, well, that stuff gets stepped upon, there being crude oil to deliver...
And you can say, I'm innocent, I'm not a bad person, but you too are involved in the struggle for survival.
I recalled more, the session's earlier conversation, putting Dupont Circle and Connecticut Avenue behind me, turning past the clothing store.
So what do I have to lose, saying to people who seem interested in the overall conversation about literary matters and mental health and writing, here's my book. I've already been ostracized, more or less. I already live like a rat, surviving, making a living in the bar, night shifts. And there never seems any value in a literary work this day and age, and if it had any people would go on the internet and pirate it, like my boss does with his Kindle. There was a piece in the Book Review, Weiseltier, about Google and stuff... The artist no longer receives any compensation...
I got home, put some rice in the cooker, thought about taking a gentle nap before work. Birds had never appeared in any of these dreams in which I sorrowfully encounter her hoping for the best and some form of redemption, and going on the Google search Dream Moods I read they are a positive sign. Liberation. Joy. Harmony. A weight lifted off the shoulders.
Love going wrong, it proved a consistent theme for Shakespeare, a place he could really break out his tool kit and craft with ease, at times hidden, but always close to the center, ready to be interpreted as the main part of any thing, Hamlet, The Winters Tale, Lear, perhaps because it is, if we were to admit it to ourselves, our own central theme. The reason we watch a film, say, The Sound of Music, whatever. We want, we need a mirror held up to the way we fall in love and continue to love, because that's what we want, what we all want, deep down, and sometimes we feel prevented from getting to that love we want, for whatever reason, practical matters, dumb choices...
I took a nap, and went to work, spending much of the night dodging my burly coworkers behind the bar as we struggled to serve wine and food, clear tables, wash glasses, get all the people who show up quite unpredictably sat at a clean table as a gypsy swing trio played on, joined later on by a violinist whom I brought a bottle of sparkling water to, remembering him from before.
But it's nice, at least, I think, as I take my mind out for its morning walk to sniff around and do its dog things here and there, to think that I share some values with people. Maybe I principally locate such now in the form of my kind young woman PhD. therapist who does yoga, apart from its native sources, some living, some not.
And I had the sense of myself being like a sort of modern Huckleberry Finn navigating the big river of life, my life apart from that of the folks up on dry land with their certain certainties, their towns, their slaves and slave owners.... And within I had my own sort of haphazard navigation system, an innocent, sort of, young fellow with thoughts on his mind bestowed upon him by good education, but, being liberal artsy, not necessarily of much real value in a world of hard work and the legality of fine print and what entities can get away with if they have a lot of money.
Twain's wife, being proper, could not always allow her husband's earthy observational modes, as if they were puerile or indecent, not for polite society, crass. Tame and forward thinking as the passages she edited out might be today.
That's why I write of this tiny postage stamp of life, a writer seeing a therapist. All the voices of Shakespeare, matured yet or not, are within us. To write them out so that those voices might be satisfied with having their place, their moment to be heard, is a healthy psychological exercise, a necessary one for the well being of the person, the individual, the entire species. And that's why I do not get those who make literary enterprises exclusive, to be had, entertained, only if one is of a worthy elite saying things the proper way. The work is there for all to do, and if not do, share in, thus the popularity of The Beatles. Never have I been one for the literary snobs who make a living putting other people down, for lacking poetic grace or what have you... Larkin wasn't a snob. In England, that most literary of places (besides Ireland), there are pubs. Where people talk.
It's like those people with the nice Porsche, sleek, expensive, and they'll look down on you because you don't have more than a bicycle, and to them it's like you don't even belong to society, part of the great 'unwashed masses.' They claim the big house and the self-centered woman, and this says something about them. If you really knew writing, were intimate with its process, you would know it's far more like riding a bicycle, in the wind and the rain, a humbling experience, a thing of inner rhythms you're compelled to repeat in a circle, another circle. To write is much like having to tend bar for a long time, and Joyce captured this. It's a lot of standing around listening to people talk and ramble on and puff and strut, to finally get to a mode in which they share something personal, like impending major surgery. Who will the mighty have to tell, besides family, but their fools. And maybe, anyway, it is the least of these, the ones who only have a bicycle, who are greater in the eyes of the Almighty or That Which Is, and anyway they are better for the environment such as it is these days... Jesus spoke in parables, and he was the best writer of all.
I mean, on the other hand, sure, I love a good educator... Nothing wrong with a discerning mind explicating literature.
Yes, maybe one day it will be us, Lear out on the heath with his wise fool...
But as far as the dream goes, the one of peace and birds, of psychological liberation, maybe there comes an admission of who you are. Face it. I'm not the guy with the Porsche. I'm the guy with the bicycle. I am of the temporarily comfortable poor. I barely provide for myself, at least in comparison. What would I do, what could I do, to support a family. I've always been a seeker, a searcher, a person prone to spiritual explorations that to another would be a pure waste of time. It's an embarrassing spot to be in. To make the claim that 'things didn't work out' by one set of terms allows for other sets of terms. And anyway, you try to move on, best you can.
There are millions of people like me, writing away uselessly in this format, and one makes no pretenses. Obscurity. Insignificance. Of no commercial value whatsoever. An open notepad, a convenient way to preserve and record thoughts that run through a particular mind, an outpost of consciousness. So admit who you are, not in a great spot, but then who is. You do your yoga, eat appropriately, enjoy wine for its antioxidant qualities, stay healthy, read a book that you find interesting. What to do for professional development, I really don't know. I tend bar, and get by, in many ways, I suppose, a let-down perhaps, given the chances and opportunities I was given but did not take up.
Might as well be mowing lawns, though at least I'm handy as a barman, a good chatter, a sort of indefinable job description, just that well, he seems to belong there, or he's that guy there, you know, with the wine... And not like I'm going to receive any great commission... though I do believe in things like the WPA, the good of providing the dignity of suitable work for those society no longer pays.
Foxes have holes; artists bare the soul. Maybe that's what he meant when he said he had nowhere to lay his head.